Each year Apple holds it's WWDC (World Wide Developer Conference). Increasingly it has become one of the hottest tickets in the tech world, with thousands of people happy to pay the $1500 ticket price to attend the week-long event. As Apple previews their line-up for the next few months we get to see several new products and updates to old ones, with last year's conference introducing us to iOS6, two new MacBooks and OS X Mountain Lion. This year was no different, although with a two-hour keynote presentation (nearly twice the length of those in previous years) it was clear that Apple had some exciting things up their sleeve.
We'll start with OS X, Apple's flagship desktop operating system. OS X has been around for over a decade and each update brings new features. A couple of years ago Apple announced that it would update the OS every 12 months, a trait that Microsoft quickly adopted with Windows. The new version of OS X is called Mavericks, and while that's perhaps not the greatest name ever it is a solid update to OS X.
New features include iBooks, an updated calendar, tabs in Finder (very useful), Tags, synchronised notifications across all devices and numerous performance tweaks. For me though there were three stand-out features, and it's these that I'll focus on. These were Multiple displays, iCloud Keychain and Maps.
Last year Apple added a feature called Full Screen Apps; essentially allowing an app to run full screen similar to the iPad. However, if you had more than one screen you could only have one full screen app whilst your other displays were blanked out, making it less than ideal on multiple displays. Apple has added this feature to Mavericks, making each display completely independent, allowing multiple full screen apps or numerous displays that act independently. You can even mix full screen apps with windowed apps. The dock is accessible from any display and you can even use your Apple TV to create another screen. This is a massive improvement, and as a user of three displays I feel this is a real sign that Apple listen to their consumers.
iCloud is Apple's cloud platform for syncing content on all your Apple devices. It's free and incredibly well designed; a simple login and the content you choose is automatically synced to all of your devices. Now Apple has added the ability to sync Keychain, where all your passwords, login details, Wi-Fi network and credit card details can be securely stored. These are now synced to all devices automatically so you never have to remember a password again. It works really well and may make other applications such as Lastpass and Dashlane obsolete.
Apple launched Maps for iOS last year to an unprecedented amount of criticism for a modern Apple product. Users complained that the maps weren't accurate and some towns simply didn't exist. Over the last 12 months this has been much improved, and it is now my Sat Nav of choice. Apple have brought the same Maps app to the Mac, providing the same 2D and 3D mapping service and allowing directions as per the iPhone. Once you have your directions you can send them straight from your Mac to your iPhone through iCloud so that you can use it as a sat nav. It's a nice touch and looked impressive on the demo.
Overall OS X Mavericks is a solid upgrade and one that I would recommend to any Mac user. Whilst there are no details on pricing we can expect it to be around the £13 mark and to arrive in the Autumn.
The Mac Pro gives Apple the chance to show off the skills of their design team. A high-end desktop, the Mac Pro is designed for users wanting extra power, and so as with previous versions it should do well amongst graphic designers and developers.
The Mac Pro hasn't received an upgrade in years and there were rumours that Apple were going to pull the Mac Pro from the shelves. That was welll and truly contradicted yesterday, and I for one couldn't be happier. I can't speak highly enough of what Apple have been able to do here. The entire machine is less than 10" tall and 6" wide, and yet is more powerful than a lot of servers! It's incredibly well designed and like no other PC on the market. The best way to tell you about it is to simply point you towards the beautifully designed Mac Pro website.
This is the one everyone was waiting for. Last year the head of iOS design, Scott Forstall, left Apple. Over the last few years both he and Apple had been criticised for not updating the design of iOS, as well as for the reliance on so-called "skeuomorphic" design (design elements that align the digital version more with it's real-world counterpart, such as the green baize background of Game Center or the wood grain on the iBooks shelves). Forstall's leaving led Senior Vice President for Design, Englishman Sir Jonathan Ive, to take the reins of Apple's Human Interface team. Ive designed the iMac and Macbook Pro, so it would be fair to say he knows a thing or two about design.
I have to say that I think he and his team have done a great job. It's visually stunning, and has moved away from skeuomorphism to create an interface that is stripped back, clean and intuitive.
iOS7 has a lot going for it from small touches such as the wallpaper moving with the phone, to vastly improved multitasking and the control centre that the iPhone so desperately needed. Overall a massive and very successful overhaul.
I've been playing with iOS7 for the last few hours (as we're Apple Consultants we gain access to previews of software), and can confirm it is a joy to use. Check out the iOS 7 site for full details.
iWork for iCloud
iWork is Apple's office suite, the Mac equivalent of Microsoft Office, and includes Pages, Keynote and Numbers. The suite has not been updated for four years and is in need of a revamp. Yesterday Apple gave a preview of the new version, iWork for iCloud.
Essentially Apple's version of Google Apps, it's currently in Beta but still offers a solid build, also supporting Microsoft Office documents. I'm actually using Pages for iCloud now to write this blog. It's incredibly quick and easy to use and feels very similar to a desktop application. iWork will be free with iCloud.
Overall it was a busy day for Apple, and they even managed to cram in the launch of the new Macbook Air, Airport Extreme and Time Capsule.
With all of these features either out now or coming in the next few months, it's a good time to be an Apple fan!
For more details, take a look at the Apple website.